Statement for Media
Forests NSW "heavy handed" approach to blockade fines
Forests campaigners are crying "foul" and accusing ForestsNSW of acting in a heavy handed manner by trying to make them travel to Sydney to defend charges from the Mumbulla forest community blockades earlier this year.
Several far south coast residents have been told they have to appear in court in Parramatta and at least one Sydney resident has been told she must travel to Bega to appear in court, according to convener of the Chipstop group, Ms Harriett Swift.
During over two months of the blockade about 30 infringement notices for breaches of the Forestry Regulations and traffic infringement notices were issued to members of the community trying to defend the koala habitat forest from woodchipping.
Most people have opted to defend their charges in court rather than pay an on-the-spot fine.
"The fines, if we end up having to pay them all will amount to about $14,000, not counting any fines imposed by courts on those who were arrested," Ms Swift said.
"To defend one charge would typically involve at least three trips to Sydney and we all know how much time and money that costs," Ms Swift said.
"I know people who have received 5 or more, so any person in this position would have to spend perhaps a week traveling, pay for accommodation and petrol and drive almost three thousand kilometres, before they have even been found guilty of anything."
"People who have been placed in this position are asking the court to change the venue to a local court on the far south coast."
Ms Swift said that a Forest Defenders Legal Fund has been set up to help people with expenses that they have incurred in trying to defend the forest.
"Many people have made very generous donations to the fund, but we shouldn"t have to waste money on pointless trips to Sydney when we have a perfectly good local court sitting in most towns on the far south coast," she said.
7 September 2010